As we near September, it's a time for spot-starting in both real and fantasy baseball. You probably can't move the needle much on team ERA and WHIP (assuming you're playing roto and not the inferior head-to-head style). If you're comfortable with your pitching ratios and can take a minor hit, it may be time to start streaming pitchers in hopes of picking of wins quickly. Suddenly you're convincing yourself the Tim Redding
s and Joel Pineiro
s of the world are reliable hurlers.
Random aside: is it just me, or did ESPN remove their Batter vs. Pitcher stats from the pitcher player pages? What gives? I used those for matchups. Now Yahoo gets my business.American LeagueRadhames Liz
, SP, BAL – Liz snags his second career start tonight against the Red Sox in place of Erik Bedard
. Liz is a small flamethrowing righty who turns 24 in October. His fastball and curve are both plus offerings; now he just needs to learn how to pitch. He was dominant in 25 Double A starts this year, though walks continued to dog him. This kid looks promising but you can't gamble on him against Boston, even without Manny in the lineup. AL: No, Mixed: No.Asdrubal Cabrera
, 2B, CLE – Cabrera came up in this column a couple weeks ago as a solid AL-only pickup and possible Josh Barfield
usurper. Now, a decent 17-game stint seems to have moved him past Barfield on the depth chart. It's hard to predict how Cabrera will perform in September. He's a speedy high-contact guy, making average and stolen base contributions possible. He's also a 21-year-old with little Triple A experience, making a flop possible. Depending on your needs I'd chance it in most leagues. AL: $11, Mixed: $1.Kevin Slowey
, SP, MIN – Because of the Twins' doubleheader today, Slowey will start Tuesday against the Tribe. There's no room for the 23-year-old command master to join the September rotation, however. And event though Cleveland's offense hasn't done much in August, he's not worth the gamble. AL: No, Mixed: No.Ian Kennedy
, SP, NYA – Kennedy makes his big league debut Saturday against the Devil Rays. I think there's a chance, maybe 25%, that the Yankees keep Kennedy in the rotation in place of Mike Mussina
if he does well on Saturday. The D-Rays have a middle of the pack offense; how will Kennedy fare? You'll notice Tampa Bay is third in the AL on OPS vs. "finesse" pitchers. I'm not sure how ESPN categorizes finesse vs. power pitchers statistically, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Kennedy's strong strikeout rates and low hit rates in the minors wouldn't lead you to believe he's a finesse guy. I'm not a scout or prospect guru, so here are some quotes from Baseball Prospectus's Kevin Goldstein (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=6649):
"Kennedy is pretty much the poster child for the kind of player who can put up ridiculous numbers in the minor leagues, but when it comes to the majors, he's not as good.
Close your eyes, and try to think of every starting pitcher in the big leagues. Now think of every good right-hander who is six-foot or under and sits in the upper 80s. Done with your list? It's not a long one, is it?"
OK, it's Tim again. Whether Kennedy has immediate success is anyone's guess. Personally I won't spot-start him Saturday, but who knows, that changeup could baffle the Rays the first time they see Kennedy. AL: $1, Mixed: No.Jack Hannahan
, 3B, OAK – Hannahan is sitting at .264/.371/.453 in 53 at-bats this year. With Eric Chavez
perhaps sidelined for the season, Hannahan could play regularly in September. Who is this guy?
I didn't know much about Hannahan; he's a 27-year-old rookie. I read that he battled drug and alcohol problems while playing college ball, but was still selected 87th overall by the Tigers in 2001. Looking at the numbers, he seems to have below average power for his position but a knack for drawing walks. Those in AL-only leagues using OBP may want to consider him. AL: $1, Mixed: No.Edinson Volquez
, SP, TEX – Volquez, 24, has a plus fastball and changeup but has yet to harness it at the big league level. He pitched well at Double A and Triple A this season, though it wasn't his first time seeing either league. He seems to have improved his control, and his strikeout rate was strong. He'll go Saturday against the Halos for his season debut. The Rangers might as well let Volquez make four or five starts in September, but he's too risky for fantasy owners. AL: No, Mixed: No.Joaquin Benoit
, RP, TEX – Outside of April, Benoit has been awesome this year. He was supposed to be in the mix for saves after Eric Gagne
was traded, but all the opportunities went to C.J. Wilson
until Tuesday. Benoit finished off last night's game, but he had a four-run lead so it wasn't a save. You really can't go wrong with a Benoit pickup. He's been untouchable for months, so the worst case scenario is that he snags you some Ks. Best case, he closes exclusively in September and saves five or six. AL: $14, Mixed: $3.National LeagueDana Eveland
, SP, ARI – Eveland, an almost 24-year-old southpaw, has been compared to David Wells
by Baseball America. He's not a flamethrower, but has good command and a plus slider. Eveland missed some time this year with a torn tendon in his pitching hand, but he's better now and will face the Rockies Saturday. It'll mark his first start as a Diamondback. If he succeeds and holds onto the fifth starter job for the rest of September, it'll be on the strength of groundballs and not his strikeout rate. The Rockies haven't hit much on the road, and Eveland might be worthy of a fantasy spot-start if you are in a deep NL-only. NL: $1, Mixed: No.Tom Shearn
, SP, CIN – Shearn is a feel-good story, a 30-year-old rookie who won his debut against Florida. Prior to his call-up he was living in a trailer outside his Triple A park to avoid paying rent. His control has never been great, and he doesn't strike out many. Can he catch lightning in a bottle again today against the Cardinals? I hope so, but I wouldn't risk any part of my fantasy standing on it. NL: No, Mixed: No.Esteban Loaiza
, SP, LAN – Loaiza will make his Dodger debut Monday against the Cubs. Oakland gave him away simply for salary relief. Those who risked using Loaiza for his first two starts of the year against Toronto came away pleased. After watching him top out around 86, a return to the NL seems Loaiza's most likely path to continued success. Back in 2005 with Washington he was both healthy and effective.
Among Cubs hitters, only Aramis Ramirez
and Cliff Floyd
seem to have Loaiza's number. He's a decent pickup for Monday's game. NL: $9, Mixed: $1.Rickie Weeks
, 2B, MIL – Weeks is finally playing like we thought he could, raking at a .500/.658/.962 pace over his last eight games. That includes four homers and two swipes. Looks like the wrist isn't bothering him, and he could be primed for a big September. I'm still seeing him on a lot of mixed league waiver wires, but it won't last for long. NL: $24, Mixed: $12.Mike Pelfrey
, SP, NYN – Pelfrey will start Saturday's game against Atlanta, but won't stick in the rotation when Pedro finally returns. Pelfrey, a 2005 first-rounder, has really disappointed this year at both Triple A and the Major League level. There's definitely no reason to start him against one of the league's top offenses. NL: No, Mixed: No.Jack Cassel
, SP, SDN – Another player whose name didn't ring a bell. Cassel starts today against the Dodgers and could be in the mix for more starts in September. He's a 27-year-old righty and organizational soldier with 793 minor league innings under his belt. He was halfway decent in his third look at Triple A this year, but remained quite hittable (11.66 hits per nine). I'll pass on this one. NL: No, Mixed: No.Heath Bell
, RP, SDN – Bell picked up his second save of the month recently when Trevor Hoffman
was unavailable. Still, he's not much of a saves pickup and has come down to Earth in recent months. Snag him mainly for Ks and WHIP help. Though as I said, it's hard to move your WHIP in roto in September. NL: $7, Mixed: No.Jonathan Sanchez
, SP, SFN – Sanchez will start Saturday against the Nationals in an effort to keep Tim Lincecum
's innings down. That's nice to see after Bruce Bochy said earlier that they had no plans to even monitor Lincecum's innings. Remember, Bochy was a major contributor to Adam Eaton
's Tommy John surgery in '01. OK, off my soapbox.
Since it's the Nationals, Sanchez is an intriguing spot start. The southpaw was dominant in his brief time at Triple A and will have success in the Majors if he can keep his walks down. NL: $1, Mixed: No.Braden Looper
, SP, STL – Looper's had a respectable August, with a 4.08 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and three wins. His last four starts have been quality efforts; he draws the Reds on Sunday. The Reds have one of the league's better offenses and it's been the NL's best in August. Looper is definitely a risky start next time out. Adam Dunn
, Ken Griffey Jr.
, and Josh Hamilton
have all homered off him before. NL: $15, Mixed: $3.